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Kathy Cain


From good to great: Swarthmore College’s magazine wins big

August 3, 2015   //   Kathy Cain

How do you take a college magazine from good to great? Ask the team at Swarthmore College.

Zehno-partner Swarthmore has won 10 awards for its magazine redesign, including a bronze in magazine improvement in the 2015 CASE Circle of Excellence awards. Fewer than 10 percent of the international competition’s entries are selected as winners.

Swarthmore’s redesign was dramatic — and strategic. The revamped magazine, created in tandem with a new Zehno-designed magazine website, now reflects Swarthmore’s status as a top-ranked liberal arts college.

By approaching print and digital simultaneously, we were able to leverage in-house resources more efficiently. It allowed us to use different tools to tell the same story, repurpose features for Swarthmore College’s home page, and give new life to great stories beyond the coffee table. This smart bit of recycling keeps the college’s web presence fresh and brand-focused and builds the readership and reputation of the magazine.

To support Swarthmore’s liberal arts mission, demonstrate the college’s enduring value to alumni, and reflect its intellectual vitality, Zehno worked with magazine staffers to conceptualize new standing departments that aligned with content goals.

  • From a readership survey, we learned that we needed deeper content for Thirtysomethings, the magazine’s largest audience segment. We pumped-up career info and added crowd-sourced content across print, website and social media.
  • We moved “dialogue” — alumni columns, speakers on campus, letters-to-the-editor, alumni books, faculty musings — up front. This new ideas section puts the liberal-arts-inspired thinking and questioning at the forefront, and gives alumni greater voice.
  • We created “common good,” a news section that reinforces the larger narrative about sharing knowledge. Within this department, a standing segment — “liberal arts lives” — profiles alumni who pursue unconventional career paths and take liberal arts to new heights. This section frequently drives readers to the digital magazine, where they can view videos, listen to podcasts, and read both extended profiles featured in the print edition and web-exclusive features.

CASE judges described the magazine as “fresh and unique” and praised its “understated but artsy” design, interesting articles and revitalized class notes. They said:

“The new magazine focuses strongly on design, which has a very unique quality and eye-catching red and turquoise accents. The articles are nice and fresh.”

The CASE award is the latest in a string of accolades for the magazine:

  • Gold for print magazine: CASE District II awards.
  • Gold for online magazine: CASE District II awards.
  • Gold for online magazine: Educational Marketing Awards.
  • Merit award for publications: Educational Marketing Awards.
  • Gold for staff writing: CASE District II awards.
  • Silver for best photography portfolio: CASE District II awards.
  • Gold for feature photography: College and University Public Relations and Associated Professionals “Cuppies” contest.
  • Excellence for Magazine (complete unit): UCDA Design Competition.
  • Excellence for Best Redesign: UCDA Design Competition.

Learn more

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